Sunday, October 1, 2023

Last Call For The Gaetz Of Heck

With House GOP Clown Wrangler Kevin McCarthy having cut a deal with Democratic House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries to punt the shutdown ball 45 days down the field, it's now incumbent upon the House Clown Caucus to make good on their threat to remove McCarthy as House Speaker, and Rep. Matt Gaetz says he'll try to do just that this week.

Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” the Florida Republican said he intends to file a motion to vacate this week, which would force a vote on whether McCarthy will keep his job.

“Speaker McCarthy made an agreement with House conservatives in January and since then he’s been in brazen, repeated material breach of that agreement,” Gaetz said Sunday. “This agreement that he made with Democrats to really blow past a lot of the spending guardrails we set up is a last straw.”

He added, “I do intend to file a motion to vacate against Speaker McCarthy this week. I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that will be trustworthy.”

That promise from Gaetz is an escalation in the monthslong standoff between McCarthy and the right flank of his conference, which forced him to go through 15 rounds of votes in January to finally win the speaker’s gavel. As part of winning the top job in the House, McCarthy made a deal that would allow just one member to advance a motion to vacate. That deal has kept the California Republican walking a tight rope with his conference throughout the year as he tried to appease the right-wing of his caucus while also attempting to do the basic work of governing.

McCarthy’s response to Gaetz later on Sunday was straightforward, telling the Floridian to “bring it on.”

“That’s nothing new,” McCarthy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“Yes, I’ll survive. You know, this is personal with Matt. Matt voted against the most conservative ability to protect our border, secure our border. He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than doing something.”

He added: “So be it, bring it on. Let’s get over with it and let’s start governing.”

McCarthy’s moment of reckoning may have finally come after President Joe Biden on Saturday signed the bill to keep the government open until mid-November just minutes before funding was set to expire at midnight. McCarthy made a sharp about-face earlier in the day and worked with Democrats to overwhelmingly pass a continuing resolution that would avoid a shutdown. The Senate also passed the bill on a bipartisan basis later on Saturday.

That move by McCarthy could well cost him his job, as Gaetz has been promising almost daily. CNN reported on Friday that Gaetz has been approaching Democrats about potential successors to McCarthy if he were to file a motion to vacate, which would force the House to vote on whether to oust the speaker.

McCarthy has been defiant and on Saturday challenged his detractors to try and push him out of the job.

“If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it,” McCarthy told CNN’s Manu Raju at a press conference. “There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what’s best for this country.”

The Florida Republican accused McCarthy of lying in negotiations over the continuing resolution.

“Look, the one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy. He lied to Biden, he lied to House conservatives. He had appropriators marking to a different number altogether. And the reason we were backed up against the shutdown politics is not a bug of the system. It’s a feature,” he said.

A senior Democratic source told CNN that most members of their caucus are skeptical about saving McCarthy given that he has shown little interest in working with Democrats and launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden.

McCarthy, multiple sources said, has yet to reach out to Democratic leaders in a serious negotiation on this issue. But there could be some rank-and-file Democratic moderates who try to find a way to help McCarthy stay in power if they get something in exchange.

Another Democratic source said the caucus will give House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries room to navigate this and the caucus will discuss this week.

Still, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday in a separate interview on “State of the Union” that she would “absolutely” vote to oust McCarthy.

“I think Kevin McCarthy is a very weak speaker. He clearly has lost control of his caucus. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink, waiting until the final hour to keep the government open, and even then only issuing a 45-day extension,” she said.

So now we get to see fully what Rep. Jeffries has learned at the feet of the best House Speaker to ever play this game, Nancy Pelosi. What will the price be for McCarthy to save his job? Can Chuck Schumer get the Senate compromise announced last week passed? Will Mitch McConnell knife McCarthy in the front and scrap any deal, meaning House Dems will pull out and leave McCarthy to the tender mercies of Matt Gaetz? 

I think the latter is the most likely outcome, as I've been saying. If Gaetz can oust McCarthy because McCarthy can't keep his end of the bargain -- and at this point Jeffries and the Dems would be crazy to trust McCarthy at all -- who will replace him?

This is the real show, and it's about to begin.

Caution: Spoilers Ahead

As I long suspected would happen, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is filing for a third party spoiler run to run against President Joe Biden in order to try to hand the country over to Trump.
2024 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to announce he will run as an independent on October 9 in Pennsylvania, Mediaite has learned.

Kennedy’s campaign machine is now planning “attack ads” against the Democratic National Committee in order to “pave the way” for his announcement in Philadelphia about running as an independent, according to a text reviewed by Mediaite.

“Bobby feels that the DNC is changing the rules to exclude his candidacy so an independent run is the only way to go,” a Kennedy campaign insider told Mediaite.

Kennedy, a notorious anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist challenging incumbent President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, has been flirting with a third party run in recent weeks. The New York Times reported last week that he met with the chair of the Libertarian Party, raising the prospect of a departure from the party that decades ago became synonymous with his family name.

Kennedy remains far behind Biden in the polls. Yet while the Times reported “Democrats worry that a third-party run by Mr. Kennedy could draw votes away from Mr. Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump,” it’s unclear whether such a run would hurt the current president more than the Republican nominee.

Indeed, polls show Republicans have a far more favorable view of Kennedy than Democrats. As the National Review’s Jim Geraghty pointed out in July, when a survey asked New Hampshire Democrats to describe Kennedy in one word, the top responses were “crazy,” “dangerous,” “insane,” “conspiracy,” and “unknown.”
That he's kicking this off in Pennsylvania is no accident. If RFK Jr. can throw the state to Trump, it's all but over. Again, we don't know what kind of margin will be in the Keystone State in 2024, but if it's anything like 2016 or 2020, one percentage point could be enough. 50-75 thousand votes could give the state and country to Trump, and I suspect enough Republicans could get RFK Jr. onto the ballots of several battleground states, not just PA.

We'll see how bad this gets, but the potential for Bobby Kennedy's son to help destroy the country for good can't be overlooked.


Sunday Long Read: Sub-Optimal Outcomes

Our Sunday Long Read this week comes from Vanity Fair's Susan Casey, who takes a look at all the human mistakes, errors, disasters and bad choices that led to the end of OceanGate and the tragic underwater deaths of all aboard the Titan submarine.
FATE CLEARED UP the weather, blew off the fog, and calmed the waves, as the submersible and its five passengers dived through the surface waters and fell into another world. They entered the deep ocean's uppermost layer, known as the twilight zone, passing creatures glimmering with bioluminescence, tiny fish with enormous teeth. Then they entered the midnight zone, where larger creatures ghost by like alien moons. Two miles down, they entered the abyssal zone—so named because it's the literal abyss.

Deeper means heavier: pressures of 5,000, then 6,000 pounds per square inch. As it descended, the submersible was gripped in a tightening vise. Maybe they heard a noise then, maybe they heard an alarm.

I hope they watched the abyss with awe through their viewport, because I'd like to think their last sights were magnificent ones.

AS THE WORLD now knows, Stockton Rush touted himself as a maverick, a disrupter, a breaker of rules. So far out on the visionary curve that, for him, safety regulations were mere suggestions, "if you're not breaking things, you're not innovating," he declared at the 2022 GeekWire Summit. "To me, the more stuff you've broken, the more innovative you've been."

In a society that has adopted the ridiculous mantra "move fast and break things," that type of arrogance can get a person far. But in the deep ocean, the price of admission is humility—and it's nonnegotiable. The abyss doesn't care if you went to Princeton, or that your ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence. If you want to go down into her world, she sets the rules.

And her rules are strict, befitting the gravitas of the realm. To descend into the ocean's abyssal zone—the waters from 10,000 to 20,000 feet—is a serious affair, and because of the annihilating pressures, far more challenging than rocketing into space. The subs that dive into this realm (there aren't many) are tested and tested and tested. Every component is checked for flaws in a pressure chamber and checked again—and every step of this process is certified by an independent marine classification society. This assurance of safety is known as "classing" a sub. Deepsea submersibles are constructed of the strongest and most predictable materials, as determined by the laws of physics.

In the abyss, that means passengers typically sit inside a titanium pressure hull, forged into a perfect sphere—the only shape that distributes pressure symmetrically. That means adding crush-resistant syntactic foam around the sphere for buoyancy and protection, to offset the weight of the titanium. That means redundancy upon redundancy, with no single point of failure. It means a safety plan, a rescue plan, an acute situational awareness at all times.

It means respect for the forces in the deep ocean. Which Rush didn't have.

UNFORTUNATELY, June 18, 2023, wasn't the first time I'd heard of Rush, or his company OceanGate, or his monstrosity of a sub. He and the Titan had been a topic of conversation talked about with real fear, on many occasions, by numerous people I met over the course of five years while reporting my book The Underworld: Journeys to the Depths of the Ocean. I heard discussions about the Titan as a tragedy-in-waiting on research ships, during deep-sea expeditions, at marine science conferences. I had my own troubling encounter with OceanGate in 2018 and had been watching it with concern ever since.

Everyone I met in the small, tight-knit world of manned submersibles was aware of the Titan. Everyone watched in disbelief as Rush built a five-person cylindrical pressure hull out of filament-wound carbon fiber, an unpredictable material that is known to fail suddenly and catastrophically under pressure.

It was as though we were watching a horror movie unfold in slow motion, knowing that whatever happened next wouldn't be pretty. But like screaming at the screen, nothing that came out of anyone's mouth made any difference.
Every single choice documented here was inevitably going to lead to death and destruction, and et OceanGate and Stockton Rush --and the people around him -- let it happen anyway. So many failure points were passed were any one of them could have shut the farcical show down for good, but that only happened after the tragic end.
A man thought he was better than the hard science of diving. He thought the rules didn't apply to him. He was wrong, and people died as a result. 

It wasn't the first time, it turns out.
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